Archive for category nancy pelosi

The War Power, The Sergeant, the Senator: Treason or Heroism

The Sergeant who some years ago left his post in that unnecessary and unwinnable war in
Afghanistan is either a hero, a traitor, or just a terribly young man in the wrong war at the wrong time. He spent terrible years of torture and probably said things he didn’t really mean.

Some years ago in Vietnam, Senator McCain was shot down over Vietnam, another unconstitutional war, and equally unwinnable war, confessed repeatedly to things he later recanted, once safely in the United States, and is, quite rightly regarded, despite his confessions to American war crimes, a hero. The two cases are not quite completely on all fours, as we say in the law. But the similarity is sufficient to compare with each other and with the undergirding of law.

Presidents, from George Washington to Barack Obama, who are visited by war, either their own or, like Obama, inherited from another (in Obama’s case two other) fools who preceded them, have always had this power. While not yet president, and without this act may well not have become president, Ronald Reagan communicated with Iran, telling them, in effect, just to refuse to deal with Carter on releasing our citizens from the U. S. Embassy in Iran, and await his presidency. Their deal (which killed Jimmie Carter’s hope for a second term and by the way was treason, meriting a firing squad.)

The 30, 60, 90 day notification of Congress is also unconstitutional, but not for the reasons the Republicans and Democrats alike, trumpet. Saint Paul, as I recall, said “this trumpet has an uncertain sound.” And I know he said that some leaders have “zeal without knowledge.” This is Republican and Democratic leaders on steroids, just like my former wife.

The reason the War Powers Act is unconstitutional is not what is now said by either Republicans or Democrats, as I told Joe Biden when he was both Minority Senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate and when he was chair. I testified before his committee a few times, and he called me at the law school sometimes to chat about this. The reason is simple. Due to both a few but very senior Democrats and almost all Republicans, Congress forced the Demo’s to give the president 30, 60, or 90 days to play with Congress’ army while he picked his nose. War has not been officially declared since FDR did it in WW2. George Bush (the first) and Colin Powell, in my opinion, got it right, constitutionally, by voting 50-50 in the Senate, and then the Dark Lord, Vice President Cheney, broke the tie and we went to war in Iraq the right way by law; and they had the smarts to stop when their limited mission was accomplished. And until this time, the President, as Commander in Chief, has no constitutional power to use the United States armed forces, save self-defense.

In the Framers’ mind that means only when the United States of America, not our allies, are attacked. For Utahns, the reason J. Reuben Clark, my hero and a great patriot, a rock-ribbed Republican who served under many Republican presidents, served variously as chief legal adviser to the Department of State (then, as an deputy Attorney General on loan from Justice to State,,,,,,now called Legal Adviser to the State Department; and Vice Secretary of State, and Ambassador to Mexico; and advised many presidents between world wars one and two, on all arms control treaties between those to dreadful wars) opposed NATO was because it delegated the war power to a generation not yet born and for the defense of people, and nations, not yet born. Neither the United Nations (Korean War) nor NATO (Ukraine?) can declare war for the United States of America. This is the statement of law, the War Clause, that makes this beyond debate. Remember, that it is also the sole right of Congress: not the President of the United States, nor NATO, nor the United Nations, that decides what constitutes International law, as well. So, both Constitutional Law and International Law, save an attack on the United States, inform us that Congress, not the president or these international bodies, who determines for war or peace.

So screw the people and the Congress and president now living. When the president, any president, has this army to use, that army will never return to Congress’ care. This is unconstitutional because it is an illegal attempt to delegate to the President a plenary power, given exclusively, textually, to the Congress. Like the power over interstate commerce (the road by which most civil rights legislation is constitutional), along with the equal protection and due process of law clauses of the 5th and 14th amendments. It’s as if Congress were to say to Obama, “Say, friend, we’re so damned tired of life in Washington, despite the cherry blossoms, we will do what the Supreme Court does, and reconvene when good weather returns. We’re going to go to Balboa Island, California, where it’s nice and sunny, in ocean or on the beach, and pick our nose and scratch our butts. And better yet, we have one in eight chances not to pick both with the same finger. Even though we’ve proven, time out of mind, that we in Congress cannot chew gum and pick our nose, simultaneously (a great blessing). So, pres., you now have the taxing and the spending power, and we’ll sweeten the loaf by throwing into the pot, since you do have to stick around in this shitty weather, and give you the power also to fund and provide for the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy. And don’t sweat it about financing things by the provision in the Constitution that spending bills begin in the House. Since you already have the taxing and spending power, do all this in the White House. P.S. please instruct the Treasury Department to deliver our checks, our salaries, and all the REALLY big bucks from the armaments industry and all those other lobbyists. We really have earned this right by selling our souls to the devil. Have a good life.

I say that both Senator and Soldier are bona fide heroes. Ed Firmage xoxox


TPP Sidetracked?


While a major media news blackout provides cover, Congress is debating whether to give the president the authority to fast-track a massive free trade agreement, the secretly-negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Members of Congress haven’t even been able to read it even though corporate lobbyists have.

President Obama is at odds with Democrats in both houses of Congress concerning reauthorizing a procedure called the “trade promotion authority” (TPA), that would grant the White House power to submit free trade deals to Congress for an up-or-down vote without amendments. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is strongly against it.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has now publicly opposed giving President Obama fast track authority.

“We need transparency. We need a seat at the table to understand what they believe they are doing, so we can make it better. And if we don’t make it better, then we will not accept a path that is a job loser.”

TPP is part of the plan for global corporatocracy run by and for the 1 Percent. Unelected lobbyists and trade representatives are at the table, while representatives from the public at large and businesses other than huge monopolies, are conspicuously absent. From what little we know of the agreement, it would violate the U.S. Constitution, weaken environmental protections, and lead to more job losses, erosion of wages, and worsening inequality. TPP also threatens freedom of speech on the Internet because it would extend restrictive intellectual property laws and rewrite international rules on enforcement.


House GOP to Low-Income Americans: You Are ‘Extraneous’

Today the GOP-controlled House of Representatives narrowly approved a revised version of the Farm Bill that completely leaves out the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs, or food stamps, that millions of low-income Americans currently depend on. No Democrats voted for the bill.

Republicans framed the debate in bloodless terms, saying that separating food stamps from agricultural policy was the logical thing to do. Rules committee chair Pete Session, R-Texas, said the new version of the bill “excludes some extraneous provisions,” a statement that drew outrage from his Democratic colleagues.

The House-passed Farm Bill does include lavish taxpayer subsidies for wealthy farmers, including some members of Congress.

“I would have said it’s one of the worst things you’ve done, but there’s such stiff competition for that honor,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

UPDATE: Robert L. Borosage: Republicans Nix Food Stamps: This Is Who They Are

This wasn’t intended as legislation. It was intended as a declaration of identity. This is who they are. Think about that.


Don’t Reward Hostage-Takers

Deal or no deal

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has signed off on a complicated deal to raise the debt limit. Bottom line: it includes a path to renewing the Bush-Obama Tax Cuts For The Rich in exchange for a vague “tax reform” package to be determined by a super-committee of Congress.

That’s a template for massive deficits in the future (or worse, massive budget cuts including Medicare cuts). The CBO says that if Congress does nothing about taxes, deficits will disappear within five years without the need for budget cuts.

Can this pass the House of Representatives? This afternoon, Rep. Jason Chaffetz told MSNBC that Speaker John Boehner “will have his hands full” trying to deliver enough votes for the deal.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is skeptical of the deal. So are other House Dems.

Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), a leader among House progressives, blasted the deal in an official statement earlier Sunday.

“This deal trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it,” he said.

It’s likely that neither Boehner nor Pelosi can get support for this deal from more than half of their respective caucuses.

The answer ought to be “no deal.” Congress needs to pass a one-sentence, $3 trillion extension of the debt ceiling, and then let’s talk about JOBS and how we are going to recover the American economy. If you reward hostage-taking, it only gets worse. If you prioritize budget-cutting over job creation, it only gets worse. Democrats are nominally in charge of Washington, and they will get the blame. So why make concessions to the extreme right-wing minority?

Jon Walker on FDL:

This is not how I want my country to be run. This process of disaster legislating makes a mockery of both our Constitution and the basic principles of democracy. Yet, given that Obama’s spinelessness has allowed it to be incredibly effective I can hardly blame the Republicans for using it.

Tragically, this will be our future as long as Obama is president. We will lurch from crisis to crisis. Each time, the GOP will use a threat to harm the economy in order to to extract massive concessions from Obama. Each time Obama will say how he had to give in but promises to really fight next time.


Bipartisanship And BATNA

Monopoly money
This is the best possible bipartisan agreement – is it better than nothing?

Those of us who observed politics during the Clinton administration know that you have to pay careful attention to the exact words Bill Clinton uses, and never assume that he has said something he didn’t actually say. Yesterday at the White House, this is what Clinton said about the McConnell-Obama tax cuts for the rich:

“[T]he agreement taken as a whole is, I believe, the best bipartisan agreement we can reach to help the largest number of Americans…”

He did not say McConnell-Obama is the best possible agreement, and he did not say it is the best policy for the country as a whole. He said it is “the best bipartisan agreement we can reach” (emphasis added). Bill Clinton knows as well as anyone that the Party of NO (aka the Republican Party) refuses to compromise on taxes, and any “bipartisan agreement” means agreeing to surrender to the GOP.

CNN’s Fareed Zakaria is the latest observer to confirm that the McConnell-Obama deal was “lopsided in that the Republicans got exactly what they wanted.”

What we need to do is look at this objectively. President Obama’s goal may be to achieve bipartisanship at any cost (in this case, nearly $900 billion of our money). That’s not the right approach. The President would be well-advised to do what’s best for America. Under the present circumstances, refusing to make a deal with the Republicans would be better than any possible agreement. The Bush tax cuts are set to expire automatically on December 31 if Congress does not act. These tax cuts are the major cause of the long-term budget deficit problem.

In negotiation theory, the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement” or BATNA is the course of action that will be taken if negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. A successful negotiator constantly keeps the BATNA in mind, and is prepared to walk away if the deal that is offered is worse than no agreement at all.

It’s very unlikely that Senator Bernie Sanders has enough to support to win a cloture vote on Monday and kill the McConnell-Obama deal. However, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has the power to keep this bad deal from reaching the House floor before the end of the 111th Congress.

Remember, getting President Obama to openly betray the 63 million Americans who voted for him was just the first part of the Republican plan. Next year the GOP-controlled House can be expected to declare federal deficits as the nation’s number one problem. Ignoring the need for economic recovery, including aid to state governments, they will try to cut budgets for non-defense programs. They will renew the assault on Social Security.

I’ve been keeping an eye on the right-wing blogs and it really seems they are laying low and keeping quiet. The Tea Party Patriots are opposed to McConnell-Obama, but there hasn’t been much coming from anybody else. Wasn’t extending the Bush tax cuts a big issue for the right? Why are we hearing crickets now?

UPDATE: I found an interesting commentary on The Right Sphere, which seems to be taking a wait-and-see position (emphasis added):

Moving forward, the GOP needs to tackle the budget. Cuts need to be made everywhere. They need to propose cuts over and over again and force Democrats to defend every single program run by the Federal Government. …

The only way this tax deal works is if it is followed up by these spending cuts. The GOP needs to prove that they understand that spending is the problem, not revenue. They need to pound on this message constantly: “Taxes aren’t spending. Spending is spending.” Many are very skeptical if the GOP even believes this and if they can deliver this message with policy.

UPDATE: Robert Reich: Why Bill Clinton’s Favorable View of Obama’s Tax Deal Should Be Disregarded

UPDATE: Jeff Cohen: President NAFTA Backs President SHAFTA

UPDATE: Obama-GOP Tax Cut Bill Turning Into ‘Christmas Tree’ Tinseled With Gifts For Lobbyists, Lawmakers

UPDATE: Rocky Anderson and 56 leading progressives sign an open letter calling for a protest in front of the White House on December 16th.

The election of Obama has not galvanized protest movements. To the contrary, it has depressed and undermined them, with the White House playing an active role in the discouragement and suppression of dissent – with disastrous consequences. The almost complete absence of protest from the left has emboldened the most right-wing elements inside and outside of the Obama administration to pursue and act on an ever more extreme agenda.

Poll: Obama losing base support – Romney would beat him now

UPDATE: McCain Flashback: ‘I Would Clearly Support Not Extending [Bush] Tax Cuts In Order To Help Address The Deficit’ (That was six years ago, bet he thought we forgot).


Hey, Wait A Minute…

Netanyahu and Cantor
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Rep. Eric Cantor

Item: Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday during an extraordinary meeting in New York that the new GOP majority in the House will “serve as a check” on the Obama administration, a statement unusual for its blunt disagreement with U.S. policy delivered directly to a foreign leader.

Via TPM: As Ron Kampeas at the Jewish Telegraph Agency put it, he couldn’t “remember an opposition leader telling a foreign leader, in a personal meeting, that he would side, as a policy, with that leader against the president.”

Yes, that’s the same Eric Cantor who castigated Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi just three years ago for allegedly violating the Logan Act on a trip to Syria– even though she was careful not to criticize the Bush administration.

The Logan Act makes it a felony and provides for a prison sentence of up to three years for any American, “without authority of the United States,” to communicate with a foreign government in an effort to influence that government’s behavior on any “disputes or controversies with the United States.”

Fortunately for politicians like Eric Cantor, no one has ever been prosecuted under the Logan Act since it became law in 1799.

Also, as Glenn Greenwald points out, it is hard to imagine “that Israel needs to be protected from the extremely deferential and devoted Obama administration.”

UPDATE: Cantor spokesman walks it back, a little.

More info:
Eric Cantor’s Pledge of Allegiance
Eric Cantor (R-VA) Should Be Impeached


Bush Officials Covered Up Housing Bubble, Financial Crisis

Here’s the problem. George W. Bush is already widely acknowledged as the Worst President Ever, but he also ran the most secretive administration ever. Which means there is a awful lot we don’t know yet.

On the financial meltdown front, there are two stories that cropped up today which indicate the Bush administration’s efforts to hide the truth about the American economy.

Greenspan and Bernanke Covered Up Housing Bubble Dangers

Last Friday, the Federal Reserve released the transcripts of Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meetings for 2004. Unlike the edited FOMC minutes, the transcripts are kept secret for five years. Then an entire year’s worth of transcripts are released at the same time.

In some of the 2004 FOMC meetings, several Federal Reserve bank presidents and Fed associate research director Stephen Oliner pointed out alarming levels of speculation in the housing markets. Instead, the minutes reflect Greenspan and Bernanke’s position that the rise in housing prices was nothing to worry about.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi Says Bushies Hid Wall Street Credit Crisis

Talking Points Memo asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the crucial meeting that led to the Wall Street bailout 18 months ago:

In a meeting that evening [September 18, 2008] with Congressional leaders and staff, [Treasury Secretary Hank] Paulson, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and others offered a dire assessment, and made an appeal for intervention that ultimately resulted in TARP. Bernanke and Paulson beseeched the legislators to act quickly, warning that, the entire U.S. economy might collapse in days without rapid intervention. But Pelosi had a question. “I asked them, and said, ‘Why am I calling you – why didn’t you call me?,” Pelosi said.

Good question. Like 2004, of course 2008 was a Presidential election year. Perhaps the Bush administration was hoping to quietly stave off the collapse of the financial sector until they left office.

According to Speaker Pelosi’s account:

“Here’s what they said. They said, ‘We were not allowed to tell Congress, but since you called, we’re going to answer your questions.'”

OK, I hope we can find out more about this!


Deem and Pass: That was Old School

I’ve long felt of the big three, Speaker Pelosi is by far the most cunning and ruthless.  Reid is pugilist, he likes a good fight; Obama is a strategic thinker, deeply engaged in the issues, but not cunning and certainly not ruthless.  Nancy Pelosi, however, is reminding me of the great politicians of the past – like FDR she is cagey, shrewd, knows how to work the angles.  Read the rest of this entry »


Did Speaker Pelosi Just Kill the Public Option?

Speaker Nancy Pelosi

It’s hard to believe the Democratic leadership is as dumb as they appear. From yesterday:

In her weekly news conference, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi expressed confidence that health-care reform would pass. But she also rang a death-knell for the persistent hopes of progressive Democrats that a public option could make an appearance in the final bill, despite months of evidence to the contrary.

…Pelosi said there would be no public option in the legislation. “We had it; we wanted it,” she told reporters. “It’s not in reconciliation … We’re talking about something that’s not going to be part of the legislation.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said that senators would whip aggressively for a public option — but only if it was included in the bill sent over by the House.

David Swanson on FDL sums up:

Let me get this straight. The Senate will pass a public option if the House will. And the House will, because it already did. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi won’t allow it.

Of course, Senator Durbin knows that Senate Dems are afraid to hold an up or down vote on the public option. A “no” vote would anger constituents. A “yes” vote would make the health insurance lobbyists unhappy. Why not call Durbin’s bluff?

Democratic Party leaders are battling one another over who will get the blame for killing the public option. Instead, why not share the credit for doing the right thing? They have to know the for-profit health insurance industry isn’t sustainable. Fewer and fewer Americans can get coverage, as costs skyrocket uncontrollably. Eventually, single-payer or Medicare buy-in will have to happen.

Sixty members of Congress have pledged to vote against any health care bill that doesn’t have a public option. It is now up to them to prevent a breakdown of representative democracy.

UPDATE: On FDL, Scarecrow speculates:

The current plan is for the House to take a dive. They’re expected to vote for an unpopular Senate bill at the risk of their careers. In exchange, they get to vote on a reconciliation fix they fear will not be sufficient to save them, while leaving out key elements they know they’ll need to sell the plan.

I would tell House progressives: Don’t vote for this, they are unfairly setting you up to take the fall for not passing the public option!

UPDATE: Jane Hamsher on HuffPo:

The White House is telling people that if they don’t pass this bill, it will be a disaster for Democrats in the fall. That’s abject nonsense — their “fallback plan” for health care doesn’t have the toxic mandate that makes the IRS the collection agency for Blue Cross/Blue Shield, or any of the abortion issues that inflame both pro- and anti-choice groups. It is quite frankly a better plan, but most of the country wouldn’t know the difference over a bill that doesn’t kick in until 2014 anyway.

More info:
Tell Progressives to Honor Their Pledge: Insist on a Public Option (FDL)
The Democrats’ scam becomes more transparent (Glenn Greenwald)

Previous One Utah posts:

New Health Care Bill = Corporate Serfdom (February 22, 2010)
Can the Public Option Survive? (July 20, 2009)


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